RAMALLAH, Saturday, January 22, 2022 (WAFA) – The Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq today criticized the prolonged funding suspension against its projects imposed by the European Commission (EC) based on allegations by anti-Palestinian Israeli groups, saying this contradicts with the role of the European Union (EU) as defender and supporter of human rights.
According to a statement by the Ramallah-based Al-Haq, on 17 December 2021, members of the S&D Group in the European Parliament submitted parliamentary questions about a funding suspension Al-Haq has been subjected to by the European Commission. “NGO Monitor, a toxic defamation organization affiliated with the Israeli government, has seized these questions to launch further attacks on European funding for Al-Haq and Palestinian civil society more broadly,” it said.
“Characteristic of NGO Monitor’s agenda and tactics, these attacks are politically-motivated and loaded with disinformation. Groups amplifying NGO Monitor’s attacks are now claiming the Commission has ‘ended’ its funding of Al-Haq. That is not correct: Al-Haq’s funding has been suspended (paused) pending a verification by the Commission.”
The Palestinian human rights organization said that, regrettably, “the Commission has displayed highly problematic and improper behavior vis-à-vis Al-Haq, preparing the stage for NGO Monitor’s latest attacks.”
It clarified that the EC imposed the suspension in May 2021, freezing one of its legal projects funded by the EU. It did so with reference to a report by the Israeli government that accuses the misuse of European donors’ funds by Palestinian civil society organizations to allegedly fund “terroristic” activities.
“We have seen and reviewed this flawed report. The minimal information in it relating to Al-Haq is completely ridiculous,” and is based on an unsubstantiated testimony by someone who has never been involved in Al-Haq, it said.
“When the Commission announced its funding suspension, it informed us it would verify whether our project had been ‘subject to any breach of obligations or irregularities’. It launched a review for that purpose, which we complied with. This review was completed in July 2021 – months before Israel designated Al-Haq for political reasons. The review identified no ‘breach of obligations or irregularities’. Why did the Commission fail to lift its funding suspension at that point?” wondered Al-Haq.
“In addition, the Commission has failed to clarify and substantiate the factual and legal grounds of its suspension. We requested this clarification as early as May 2021. Until today, we have not received it. The Commission has simply ignored our legitimate questions and requests in this regard, which are of direct relevance to our ability to defend ourselves against Israel’s allegations and any adverse measures by the EU based on these allegations.”
Al-Haq said the EC only replied at the end of 2021, after it had involved a lawyer, and that it replied with reference to Israel’s designations, confirming it had not lifted the funding suspension pending “further investigations” of information received from the Israeli authorities – adding “a decision on the suspension is unlikely to be made before the end of the first quarter of 2022”.
“This is shocking,” said the Palestinian rights organization. “Like several EU Member States, the Commission has repeatedly acknowledged that Israel has failed to date to present concrete and credible (evidence) against the six designated NGOs, including Al-Haq. It is completely aware of the serious risks these NGOs face, at the organizational and individual levels. Why would the Commission increase our vulnerability by acting upon Israel’s designations, delaying its determination by months – effectively encouraging Israel to further escalate its campaign of political persecution?
“This is both puzzling and troubling, considering that the Commission is fully aware of the political agenda behind Israel’s assault on Palestinian civil society. Israel seeks to disrupt the NGOs that monitor, report and promote accountability for its severe violations of human rights and international law, among them war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the Crime of Apartheid. Flanked by proxy organizations like NGO Monitor, Israel does so through campaigns defaming, deplatforming and defunding Palestinian civil society.”
Al-Haq said that while the former Commission was more understanding that the current one of the Israeli disinformation campaigns targeting Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations, the current Commission includes officials “who are keen on accommodating Israel’s agenda, at the expense of the legitimate concerns and interests of Palestinian civil society and the basic rights of the Palestinians at large.”
It expressed hope that “the EU will return to its value- and trust-based engagement with Palestinian civil society, which has characterized our principled relations for long,” for the sake of both Palestinian civil society and the EU’s own interest as the leading global actor promoting human rights and the rule of law and the main international sponsor of a viable two-state solution.
“The funding suspension the Commission has imposed on Al-Haq marks a break with this engagement. It is unfounded and illegitimate and should be rejected by anyone supportive of democratic principles and human rights,” said Al-Haq, charging the Commission’s treatment as “characterized by a stunning lack of transparency and responsiveness, in violation of the Commission’s minimum standards of good administration.”